‘For 27 years, I dreamt of you. I craved you… I’ve missed you!’
IT was both my gateway to Stephen King and also one of my favourite novels growing up. Despite being ridiculously long, it is a book I have returned to again and again and Andy Muschietti’s film adaptation was a joyous, demented thrill ride that captured the essence of the first part of the book beautifully. The follow up was always going to be more difficult. Partly because the second part isn’t quite as compelling in the book either, and partly because the original ending takes place in the realm of the metaphysical which makes it pretty impossible to translate to film. Sadly, Chapter 2 is riddled with issues and not just those related to the problem of how to shoot an unfilmable book.
First off, the casting, so perfect in the first movie, is only partly successful here. Bill Hader is great as Richie ‘Trashmouth’ Tozier and Jessica Chastain brings an elegance to Bev Marsh that grounds the sillier moments of the movie. James McAvoy just about pulls off the statesmanlike influence of stuttering Bill Denborough but Isaiah Mustafa and Jay Ryan deliver a pair of forgettable and uninspired performances as Mike Hanlon and Ben Hanscom respectively. Rounding off the Losers Club is James Ransone as Eddie Kasbrack and his easy chemistry with Hader’s Richie Tozier provides the film’s best moments of comic relief.
Secondly, the ending – so controversial and strange in the book – is rushed and anti-climatic here. The idea that the beast is only frightening if we decide it is is as old and overused as time and as with many aspects of this movie, it appears to have been stolen wholesale from the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Something that is kind of acknowledged with the visual cue to Nightmare on Elm Street 5 at the movie’s conclusion. While I love the Freddy films, their cartoonish style doesn’t really lend itself to one of the most terrifying stories of our life time, and Chapter 2 leans too heavily into cheap haunted house scares and dodgy CGI. And this leads us to the biggest problem with Muschietti’s sequel…
…It just isn’t scary. We are past the point now where horror films only exist to provide nightmare fuel, they are more than that, but Pennywise the clown is one of the most ghoulish and iconic horror villains ever. Bill Skarsgård is once again phenomenal but we just don’t see enough of him or his character. There were more laughs than gasps in the cinema that I was in, and while the two needn’t be mutually exclusive, that is still a sorry state of affairs for such a nightmarish character.
Ultimately, IT: Chapter 2 is a decent effort at condensing a huge story into one film but the fact that it falls short is indisputable.